An Eye-Catching Poughkeepsie, New York, Stoneware Jug

This monumental jug may have sat in the window of the Poughkeepsie Pottery to advertise its wares.

This monumental jug may have sat in the window of the Poughkeepsie Pottery to advertise its wares.

Grand in its size and decoration, a unique Poughkeepsie, NY stoneware jug will be offered without reserve in our March 5 auction of antique American stoneware and redware. Measuring 21 1/2″ tall, the jug was thrown on the potter’s wheel in two sections to accomodate its monumental size. A seam line near the shoulder reveals that the majority of the jug was thrown as a cylinder, and the remainder of the jug (including its rounded shoulder and squared spout) were affixed and sealed to the vessel. While the height of the jug is extremely rare, its slender form is perhaps equally unusual. The jug’s width is comparable to that of a two-gallon example, but with a height twice that.

The incredible size of the piece suggests it was made to catch one’s attention, and the decoration supports this notion. Extending upward and covering 18″ or so of the jug’s vertical surface is a large slip-trailed cobalt tree with graduated limbs. This tree was lightly incised into the surface of the jug prior to being applied in cobalt slip, a technique which allowed the decorator to map out his design. (Interestingly, the Fenton & Hancock stoneware cooler with decoration of a Civil War general and his wife, which set a record in our November 2006 auction, features similar incising under the decoration.)

7068-both-sidesPerched near the peak of the tree are four fan-tailed birds with crests, and flanking the tree’s heavily-shaded trunk are a seated dog and a reclining doe with cobalt-spot-decorated bodies. The doe sports an unusually long tail, perhaps more fitting of a dog. Realistic sizing plays no role in the decoration, as the birds appear too large for the tree, and the dog towers over the deer. Other New York State and New England decorators were known to disregard the actual scale of design elements. For example, Norton stoneware from Bennington, Vermont is famous for such folksy discrepancies, featuring fanciful designs, such as an oversized flower basket beside a small deer or a large deer beside a much smaller tree.

70683The animal scene on the Poughkeepsie jug captures four distinctive designs the pottery was known for: the fan-tailed bird, the dog, the deer, and a tree with graduated limbs. It is these distinctive designs, most notably the bird and the tree, that lead to a strong attribution to the pottery of Philip Riedinger and Adam Caire of Poughkeepsie, NY. A great deal of information is provided on this potting firm in William C. Ketchum’s seminal book, Potters and Potteries of New York State, 1650-1900. According to Ketchum’s research, the partnership of potters, Adam Caire and Philip Riedinger, began in 1857 at a long-standing pottery on Poughkeepsie’s Main Street. Prior to that time, Riedinger had been operating at the same location with another partner, Louis Lehman. Caire, the son of potter, John B. Caire, having finished his six-year apprenticeship in Hartford and Amboy, purchased Lehman’s interest in the operation. Thus, the partnership of Riedinger & Caire was born, a formidable business that would survive until Riedinger’s death in 1878. The operation was known as the Poughkeepsie Pottery, and during its later years, employed sixteen potters, including a prolific artisan named Samuel Brady (Ketchum, p. 118). Brady would operate a pottery in Ellenville, NY with partner, John J. Ryan, between 1881 and about 1897 (Ketchum, p. 143, 466). Numerous examples of Brady & Ryan stoneware from Ellenville show strong Poughkeepsie Pottery influences. Similarities are particularly evident in the partnership’s bird designs.Harmony movie

70684The eye-catching appeal of the jug suggests it may have sat in the storefront of the Poughkeepsie Pottery to advertise the company’s wares. Oral history of many other large-sized decorative pieces, including one or more coolers produced by J. & E. Norton of Bennington, a Decker jar from Tennessee, and an oversized Perine pitcher from Baltimore, indicate they sat in prominent locations to promote the potteries that made them. Quietly hidden away until recently in a New York State home, this great jug is sure to turn heads once again, just as it surely did over 125 years ago.watch full movie The Invisible Guest 2017 online





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Captain J.F. Caulkins’ Rum Jug

Capt. Caulkins' jug, which survived a shipwreck off the Carolinas in 1872.
Capt. Caulkins' jug, which survived a shipwreck off the Carolinas in 1872.
A small-sized stoneware rum jug with an interesting history will cross the block in our April 10 auction. Standing just 5 1/4″ tall, the jug was made for Brooklyn, New York sea captain, Julius Frank Caulkins, and bears his initials, along with the inscription “His Jug,” across the front. The vessel is consistent in form and color to stoneware produced in Caulkins’ home state of New York, circa 1860-1870.

The captain was born on January 27, 1833, and eventually became master of the ship “Energy,” a fully-rigged vessel built in South Boston in 1860. It measured 168 feet long, had a 34 foot beam, and weighed 967 tons.

“Energy” was wrecked on Hunting Island, South Carolina, on October 20, 1872. Fortunately, Caulkins, his wife, and his prized jug survived. Apparently, there was some discussion as to whether the jug’s contents played a role in the grounding of the ship. Caulkins account of previous damage sustained by “Energy” nine years earlier was printed in the February 1, 1863 of the New York Times:

DEAR SIRS: After encountering a succession of the heaviest gales I ever experienced, in which I lost sails, stove boats, twisted off the rudder-head, and sustained other damage, I was compelled to bear up for this place to repair damages. I shall proceed at once with the necessary repairs, which I hope will be completed in about 10 days, when I shall leave for your port.

Yours truly, JULIUS F. CAULKINS,

Master of ship Energy.

After years of cheating death, an incident five years after the wreck in South Carolina would prove fatal for the captain. On January 3, 1877, Caulkins was lost at sea aboard the steamer, “George Cromwell,” which wrecked near Newfoundland. All hands were lost.

For stoneware enthusiasts, presentation pieces stir our curiosity when they come along. We often wonder who, exactly, they were made for, and why they were made for that particular person. Oftentimes, they are a relative of a potter or an important figure within a certain community. However, presentation pieces are often difficult to research, particularly when they are inscribed only with the owner’s initials. Fortunately for this little jug, it remained in the captain’s family. Having survived 150 years (and a shipwreck) Caulkins’ jug ultimately descended to his great grandson, its consignor. And while so much information on pottery is lost at sea, so to speak, this one’s colorful history has thankfully survived.



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New Boynton Stoneware Water Cooler Discovered

In 1817, Jonah and Calvin Boynton were in their second year of business together in Albany, NY. They imported high-quality New Jersey clay to Albany and, as Jonah Boynton boasted the previous year, they produced “as handsome real Stone Ware, as ever was manufactured in the United States… .” We have no way of knowing the exact number of stoneware vessels manufactured at the Boynton’s factory in 1817, but we do know that

1816 Albany Argus ad placed by Jonah and Calvin Boynton
1816 Albany Argus ad placed by Jonah and Calvin Boynton
they produced at least two exceptional keg water coolers with incised fish decorations that year. Both known examples were made at the Boynton factory, both bear the date 1817, both bear artistic incised decorations, both could have been produced in the same kiln firing and ironically, after not being offered for public sale for 192 years, both surfaced this year.

NEW DISCOVERY: Important 1817 Presentation Stoneware Keg Cooler att. Jonah and Calvin Boynton, Albany, NY
NEW DISCOVERY: Important 1817 Presentation Stoneware Keg Cooler att. Jonah and Calvin Boynton, Albany, NY

The first water cooler sold in March 21 as Lot 1 in our Spring 2009 Auction of Antique American Stoneware and Redware. Holding the world auction record for the highest price paid at a stoneware specialty auction ($103,500), this cooler is one of the finest surviving examples of Albany stoneware. Adorned with two incised birds and two incised fish filled with vibrant cobalt oxide, this two-gallon keg is also incised “Albany August 7, 1817,” above its spigot hole. The maker’s mark “BOYNTON” confirms the makers of this piece.

The second such water cooler, a three-gallon keg, will be sold in our October 31 auction. Recently consigned to us, this vessel was found roughly 20 years ago in a home in the Fairfield, NY, area and has never before been offered for public sale. Although unsigned, the striking similarity between this example and other known Boynton examples, notably the above-mentioned keg from our March 2009 auction, leaves no doubt of the makers of this piece. With cobalt-oxide equally vibrant to that on the two-gallon Boynton keg, the three-gallon example is also an exceptional representation of early Albany stoneware. A carefully-incised star-shaped blossom flanked by flowering vines adorns the front upper portion of the cooler and two fish face the incised date “1817” on either side.

But the most exciting aspect of the newly-discovered keg is the large incised name, which fills a large portion of the middle of the keg’s front. The potter carefully incised in bold block letters “Doct.. Jonn. Sherwood / Fairfield / 1817” onto the front of the cooler and research has revealed that this example is as historically significant as it is visually appealing. Dr. Jonathan Sherwood was an instrumental figure in the founding and

Close-up of Keg's Inscription
Close-up of Keg's Inscription
operation of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Western District of New York (commonly, Fairfield Medical College). Officially founded in 1812, the Fairfield Medical College was the eleventh medical school established in the United States and the first west of the Hudson River. Only surviving until 1841, when the new medical school in Albany became the preferred institution for studying medicine in the region, Fairfield graduated over 600 doctors throughout its brief existence.

Sherwood was a practicing physician in Fairfield and a founding member of the board of trustees at Fairfield Medical College. Additionally, he served as the school’s registrar and received an official medical degree from Fairfield in 1818. Evidence of Sherwood’s impact on the school survive to this day in the form of letters and a pamphlet that he authored. Several letters that he wrote to Dr. Lyman Spalding, Fairfield Medical College’s first president, are published in Dr. Lyman Spalding: the originator of the United States pharmacopoeia… by Dr. James Alfred Spalding. Most letters concern guest lecturers, ordering books, enrolling students and the like, but one letter published on page 232 of Spalding’s book illustrates the greater concerns of Sherwood and his contemporaries. Sherwood wrote in great detail of the United States military’s campaign in Canada and the subsequent death of General Pike along with 200 American troops when the British detonated hidden underground munitions. Additionally, Sherwood authored, as registrar, the pamphlet, “Ordinances of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, of the Western District, of the State of New-York.”

1817 Boynton Stoneware Keg Cooler, Sold for $103,500 on 3/21/09. Possibly made in the same kiln as the newly-discovered example.
1817 Boynton Stoneware Keg Cooler, Sold for $103,500 on 3/21/09. Possibly made in the same kiln as the newly-discovered example.

While most stoneware presentation pieces bear the names of people or institutions that carry little to no historic significance, this water cooler was made for a man about whom we know a great deal. While a presentation water cooler this early is highly unusual, the fact that the Boyntons made this example for a man who left a mark on history that is still remembered today makes this piece even more appealing. One can imagine Sherwood using this cooler in his office at Fairfield. And given the beauty and symmetry of this keg, I believe it was exactly what the doctor ordered.



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Van Cortlandt Family Stoneware Piece from New York State

Small-sized stoneware batter bowl with chicken pecking corn design, stamped "VANCORTLANDT / 1884," to be sold in our July 11, 2009 auction.
Small-sized stoneware batter bowl with chicken pecking corn design, stamped VANCORTLANDT / 1884, to be sold in our July 11, 2009 auction.
The chicken pecking corn motif, found primarily on pieces by several New York State and some New England makers, is one of the most recognizable designs in all of American stoneware. We’ve been consigned one of the most interesting examples of stoneware we’ve found decorated with this desirable scene for our July 11th auction. When I first saw this little piece, measuring just 5 1/4″ tall and 6″ wide from spout to rim, I was immediately taken with the size (especially considering the fact that this design is usually found on much larger pieces, usually between two and six gallons in size). This example holds only about a half-gallon.

While the reverse is decorated with a chicken pecking corn, the front features a design of a long-tailed bird perched on a stump. Based on the style of these designs, the pot was likely made at the Brady and Ryan pottery of Ellenville, NY, or the Adam Caire pottery of Poughkeepsie, NY. The form, like a cream jar with wide pouring spout, is highly unusual for New York State stoneware. We believe it is best classified as a batter bowl, with the tall, curved sides allowing for easy mixing. Its incredible condition suggests it saw little or no use.

Reverse of VANCORTLANDT batter bowl.
Reverse of VANCORTLANDT batter bowl.
The reverse bears the impressed name and date “VANCORTLANDT / 1884,” indicating that the pot was likely made as a presentation piece for a member of the prominent Van Cortlandt family of New York. Several Van Cortlandts are significant to New York state’s political history. Two Van Cortlands, Stephanus (1643-1700) and his brother Jacobus (1658-1739), served as mayor of New York City. Stephanus was also owner of large tract of land in Westchester County, NY, where Van Cortlandt Manor was built. This site can still be visited today, where tours of the many buildings and gardens are available. A second New York landmark, Van Cortlandt Park, which is located in the Bronx, is also named after Stephanus. A third Van Cortlandt, Frederick, built a mansion on this second site in 1748, which was used as George Washington’s headquarters for a period during the Revolutionary War. It was purchased by the City of New York in 1888, when it was converted into park land. Van Cortlandt Mansion now stands as a museum and includes many of the family’s original possessions. Since several Van Cortlandts were still living at Van Cortlandt Manor and Van Cortlandt Mansion during the 1880s, it is possible that the bowl we recently acquired was made for use on one of these two homesteads.

Regardless of who this piece’s intended owner really was, the exceptional size, form, and outstanding two-sided bird decoration, make it one of the more notable auction offerings of New York State stoneware in the past few years.



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